May Day celebrations can be traced as far back as the Festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, as well as to the Walpurgis Night celebrations in Germanic countries and to the Gaelic Festival of Beltano. In Europe, the first of May is a national holiday, their Labor Day. In France it is celebrated with the giving of lily-of-the-valley or muguet bouquets. This tradition goes back to the reign of King Charles IX who believed the flower was a token of good luck. The tradition has endured more than 400 years. A more detailed history of May Day can be read here.
In North America May Day is not much celebrated except perhaps in the making of darling May Baskets and in some places, dancing around a May pole. Traditionally, May Baskets have been created in paper cones filled with flowers then hung on a neighbor’s door with ribbon, anonymously, on the first day of May. The idea of the bouquets is to signal spring and brighten someone’s day with no reciprocity expected. It is a lovely concept and this year I decided to make some of these charming baskets and filled them with flowers from my garden albeit sans lily-of-the-valley, as it has been too cold and we have but pips poking their tips out of the earth.